Europe's Functional Constitution: A Theory of Constitutionalism Beyond the State

Oxford University Press
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Constitutionalism has become a byword for legitimate government, but is it fated to lose its relevance as constitutional states relinquish power to international institutions? This book evaluates the extent to which constitutionalism, as an empirical idea and normative ideal, can be adapted to institutions beyond the state by surveying the sophisticated legal and political system of the European Union. Having originated in a series of agreements between states, the EU has acquired important constitutional features like judicial review, protections for individual rights, and a hierarchy of norms. Nonetheless, it confounds traditional models of constitutional rule to the extent that its claim to authority rests on the promise of economic prosperity and technocratic competence rather than on the democratic will of citizens. Critically appraising the European Union and its legal system, this book proposes the idea of 'functional constitutionalism' to describe this distinctive configuration of public power. Although the EU is the most advanced instance of functional constitutionalism to date, understanding this pragmatic mode of constitutional authority is essential for assessing contemporary international economic governance.
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About the author

Turkuler Isiksel is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. She earned her PhD in political science from Yale University and works primarily in contemporary political theory. Isiksel has served as a Perkins fellow at the Princeton University Program in Law and Public Affairs and as an Emile Noël Fellow at the Jean Monnet Centre for International and Regional Economic Law and Justice at the New York University School of Law. In addition, she has held a Jean Monnet fellowship at the Global Governance Program at the European University Institute in Florence, and a visiting fellowship at the Justitia Amplificata Centre for Advanced Studies at Goethe Universität in Frankfurt.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
May 26, 2016
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9780191076879
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Constitutional
Law / International
Political Science / History & Theory
Political Science / International Relations / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In America’s Constitution, one of this era’s most accomplished constitutional law scholars, Akhil Reed Amar, gives the first comprehensive account of one of the world’s great political texts. Incisive, entertaining, and occasionally controversial, this “biography” of America’s framing document explains not only what the Constitution says but also why the Constitution says it.

We all know this much: the Constitution is neither immutable nor perfect. Amar shows us how the story of this one relatively compact document reflects the story of America more generally. (For example, much of the Constitution, including the glorious-sounding “We the People,” was lifted from existing American legal texts, including early state constitutions.) In short, the Constitution was as much a product of its environment as it was a product of its individual creators’ inspired genius.

Despite the Constitution’s flaws, its role in guiding our republic has been nothing short of amazing. Skillfully placing the document in the context of late-eighteenth-century American politics, America’s Constitution explains, for instance, whether there is anything in the Constitution that is unamendable; the reason America adopted an electoral college; why a president must be at least thirty-five years old; and why–for now, at least–only those citizens who were born under the American flag can become president.

From his unique perspective, Amar also gives us unconventional wisdom about the Constitution and its significance throughout the nation’s history. For one thing, we see that the Constitution has been far more democratic than is conventionally understood. Even though the document was drafted by white landholders, a remarkably large number of citizens (by the standards of 1787) were allowed to vote up or down on it, and the document’s later amendments eventually extended the vote to virtually all Americans.

We also learn that the Founders’ Constitution was far more slavocratic than many would acknowledge: the “three fifths” clause gave the South extra political clout for every slave it owned or acquired. As a result, slaveholding Virginians held the presidency all but four of the Republic’s first thirty-six years, and proslavery forces eventually came to dominate much of the federal government prior to Lincoln’s election.

Ambitious, even-handed, eminently accessible, and often surprising, America’s Constitution is an indispensable work, bound to become a standard reference for any student of history and all citizens of the United States.
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